Candice LeRae has to answer to Shotzi Blackheart at the upcoming WWE NXT Takeover: War Games for crossing an unforgivable line: destroying Shotzi’s signature tank. Before the Poison Pixie pays the piper for that offense, she made sure to send a message by cutting a swath of mayhem with her newly assembled Team LeRae: Dakota Kai, Raquel Gonzalez, and a surprise fourth rounding out the squad with a shocking betrayal.
In the first match of the program, LeRae faced Ember Moon. The formidable and experienced Moon proclaimed upon her return that she had a new ‘take no prisoners’ attitude returning to NXT, and it was on display as Moon wasted no time unleashing a hard kick on LeRae. Moon was strong on the offense in the opening minutes of the match, even unleashing on LeRae’s ringside companion Indi Hartwell with a body slam when she interfered. This would not be the first time Hartwell leaped to the aid of the Gargano’s. She donned the garb of slasher movie villain Ghostface to help Johnny Gargano win the North American Championship from Damien Priest at Halloween Havoc, and attempted to help LeRae win the WWE NXT Women’s Championship from Io Shirai later that same night.
Both women traded vicious blows, with Moon dominating and set to put LeRae away, climbing the turnbuckle for her high flying finisher the Eclipse. Hartwell came through for the Gargano’s again and distracted Moon, taking the blow of her Eclipse in Candice’s place. This allowed LaRae to get the best of Moon with her own signature Wicked Stepsister, and get a cover on Ember, winning the match.
Despite securing the win, Candice LeRae wasn’t done terrorizing Ember Moon, or calling on her allies. Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez revealed themselves and set upon Moon. Moon fought her way out and seemed to be met on the ramp by a seemingly sympathetic Toni Storm. Reinvigorated by what seemed to be a helping hand, Ember shared a nod of agreement with Toni, and the two seemed set to take on LaRae and her allies. It was not so: Storm decked Moon, and savagely pushed her into the steel stairs, goading her back into the ring for more brutality at the hands of LaRae’s squad. Moon became the latest victim of the ‘Gargano Way’, LeRae and her husbands’ Machiavellian personal philosophy.
LaRae announced Kai, Gonzalez, and Storm as her official War Games team, set to meet Shotzi’s Team Blackheart. Her theatrics weren’t over for the night. The previous week’s NXT saw a brutal struggle of blood, sweat, and tears between Rhea Ripley and Io Shirai for the WWE NXT Women’s Championship, which Shirai retained. Ripley took to the ring to clarify her feelings about the match, her future, and why she hugged Shirai at the end of the match. She had just barely reassured the crowd that she had hugged Shirai in a gesture of respect, not a farewell to the ring, when LeRae and her team stormed the ramp taunting Ripley for her defeat, and bearing a shocking prize: the inert body of Io Shirai!
While the current women’s champion lay unconscious, Team LeRae viciously swarmed the formidable Ripley. She delivered some quick strikes against Le Rae and Company, holding her own, but was cornered and floored by Gonzalez.
Neither champions nor challengers were safe from LeRae in her quest to put Shotzi on notice, that neither she nor her team are to be underestimated going into War Games. As LeRae and her husband, Johnny Gargano, departed, they left another mystery in their wake. A noticeably injured Indi Hartwell was seated in the back of their vehicle…but beside a mysterious figure in the Ghostface costume. If Indi was not wearing it this time, who else have Johnny Gargano and Candice LeRae enticed to pledge to the ‘Gargano Way’?
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